Taiwanese-American throws hat in ring for Congressional bid

Republican Ed Royce announced his retirement, Taiwanese-American, Jay Chen is hoping to run for the seat and said he believes his background can help strengthen relations between Taiwan and the U.S. (Photo by CNA provided by Jay Chen)

Los Angeles, Feb. 19 (CNA) When Jay Chen (陳介飛) declared his intention to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for the 39th Congressional District of California in January, the news of his bid attracted a wave of support from outside the United States.

A Hacienda Heights resident and son of immigrant parents from Taipei and Chiayi, Chen attended Hacienda Heights public schools and earned a Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to attend Harvard University, from which he graduated with honors.

Jay Chen, a U.S. Navy reserve officer and lieutenant lieutenant, is responsible for intelligence analysis. (Photo by CNA, provided by Jay Chen)

Although currently the only Taiwanese-American politicians in Congress are Grace Meng (孟昭文) and Ted Lieu (劉雲平), the lifelong Democrat said he will do his utmost to serve his district and hopes that his relatives and friends back in Taiwan can be proud of him should he receive the nomination.

The 39-year-old Chen, who is also fluent in Mandarin, said he was fortunate his parents have always emphasized the importance of the Chinese language despite him being born and raised in the U.S.

According to Chen, he and his family often return to visit his grandparents in Taiwan.

“Every time I go back, I usually put on more than 15 pounds because of the delicious foods there,” he said.

Chen, who is hoping to run for the seat being vacated by Republican Ed Royce, said he believes his background can help strengthen relations between Taiwan and the U.S.

In 2012, Chen ran in the election for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent California’s 39th District, but eventually lost to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce, who announced in January this year that he will retire from Congress at the end of his current term and not run for re-election.

Royce, who received the Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in 2017 in recognition of his long-term support for the island, has been one of Taiwan’s most loyal and important friends.

“I care deeply about Taiwan,” Chen said, adding that he will also help strengthen the voice of the Taiwanese-American population in the country.

If elected, Chen said he will actively participate in foreign affairs-related matters, especially those related to Taiwan.

As an Asian American candidate, Chen could have an edge in the district, where a third of the population are of Asian descent.

However, the Democratic candidate called on eligible voters in the district to show their support during the coming primary, as Asian Americans often have the lowest voter turnout rate of any racial group in the U.S.

Chance favors the prepared mind, and Chen said he will go all out to represent the voices of residents of Congressional District 39.

Currently a businessman and real estate investor, Chen joins six other Democrats vying for the hotly contested 39th Congressional District seat.

The primary election for California’s 39th Congressional District is scheduled for June 5, with the elected nominees set to run in the general election on November 6.

(By Tsao Yu-fan and Ko Lin)